LAKE GEORGE Celebrity cook and television personality Rachel Ray returned to Lake George Friday to conduct her annual fundraiser for her alma mater, Lake George High School. Formally a cooking demonstration to raise scholarship money for the alumni association, the event morphed into a lively casual talk with the capacity audience of well over 500. Fielding all questions, Ray candidly revealed aspects of her private and public life. The show included a lot of quips and friendly barbs exchanged between Ray and her host alumni association president Gloria Gilman. Ray evoked a lot of cheers and smiles from the audience, and afterwards, about two-thirds of her audience lined up for a book-signing event. Many waited in line for more than 90 minutes while she greeted each person and posed for photos as requested. The evening ended with a buffet, that Ray had donated, feeding all the attendees. Prior to the event, she conducted several interviews. This transcript details her talk with the Adirondack Journal: You seem to have a dramatic flair on television. Were you in any of Mickey Luces productions while at Lake George High School? Mickey was my social studies teacher, and I didnt do much youth theater with him, but my friends Betsy Corvine and Meg OBrien did a lot of it. Chorus was the closest I got to that. In Mr. Luces class we did Sunshine City and I was mayor! (laughs) I remember when Mr. Luce ran the Olympic Torch through the village in 1980. Your High School yearbook says Most Creative under your photograph. Look at that hair of mine.(laughs) I love to draw. I still do, but I dont get to draw as much as I used to. Any particular fun memories of your school days in Lake George? They were largely very happy, and I especially loved elementary school. I thought we had the coolest elementary school ever. It was very unstructured, and you could kinda make your own way and do your own thing and it was groovy. They had open classrooms, sustained silent reading, and Mr. (Wally) Madden, one of my teachers, rode a motorcycle, and Mr. (Donald) Trombley looked like Tom Selleck, and everybody always tried to get on his war-ball team because he was so cute. I really dug elementary school here, It was really fun. It felt like camp. There was no real feeling you were in school. A lot of programs in high school made you feel like that too I loved art because Mr. and Mrs. (Doug and Barbara) Wilson were so cool, and you just wanted to hang out with them. Whether you were throwing pottery, making jewelry or painting a picture, it was just cool. And I loved my homeroom too. Do you think the Lake George Schools affected your career, your creativity? It was my mom that really influenced my career. She worked at restaurants in this area for 40 years Carl DeSantis restaurants. My mother became the supervisor of the entire chain and would hire and train everyone. She worked 80 to 100 hours per week, and my mom had us at work with her all of our young lives, so I sorta caught the bug. An online resume I saw says your first job was at Macys. But tell us about your earlier work history in the North Country. Are you kidding me? Macys was nowhere near my first job. I had many jobs up here. I used to bartend on The Horicon. My hardest job was working for our good friends at the Ridge Terrace with chef -owner Raymond Rios. As waitresses, we would bleach dishes and polish logs and silverware, and prep seafood and that experience probably taught me the most about fine dining. And I grew up working at all the local HoJos I was a dish machine operator and I was horrible at it. This was the most degrading, awful job one could ever have; its very humbling. I was a fountain girl, I worked the cash register, I was their hostess, regular waitress, anything you could be. I worked caterings with my mom; anything you could work in a restaurant. Where are you going after this appearance at the High School? Im going home to sleep! (Laughing as she talks about her getaway in Lake Luzerne.) How often do you get up here in the Adirondacks? Once a month. Anytime I have at least 36 hours off, I come home here. Any particular teachers at Lake George you feel had an important or positive influence in your life? I couldnt complain about any of them. They really were wonderful people. I think of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, and all my elementary school teachers meant a lot to me. But my moms probably the biggest influence on my life. What are your favorite places to visit when youre up here in the region? I go straight home, I make dinner, or my mom makes dinner; we watch a couple of movies. Im usually writing when Im here. I come up here to do my quiet work. I write my magazine here, I write all of my books here. I love going to the Harvest Restaurant and having the same pizza Ive had since I was 12, with peppers and onions. They call it The Rachel now. After 30 years, Ive finally got the pizza named after me. Maybe occasionally we see a movie. Other than that, we dont go out much. If we have to go out, well go out to the Montcalm, or over to Ridge Terrace, but more often than not, well spend all of my free time at home theres so little of it. I buy groceries at price Chopper Im a Chopper Shopper! I buy clothes and Sunday breakfasts at Sutton's Ive known the Sutton's since I was 7 or 8. Any plans of ever opening a restaurant up here? I never say never, but probably itll be down in the city since I spend more time down there. The current restaurant plans I have are for Manhattan and other large markets. Which late-night host is more fun to share conversation with, and tease or joke back and forth? Theyre all very different. Oh Conan, I love but Ive been such a big Dave Letterman fan for so many years, I think thats the one Im just so happy he likes me, you know (Laughs) I just wanted to please him since I grew up watching him. I remember Dave on Mork and Mindy! Are you itching to do anything particularly in the future? The growth of our Yum-O charity. Weve got a great online community. Its got three levels We work to eradicate hunger among American kids, weve got a scholarship program with the National Restaurant Association to offer more scholarships to kids, and we have our program with President Clinton for a healthier generation to encourage kids and their families to eat healthier, so we can lower our diabetes and obesity rates. How would you describe yourself, your character, in high school? I was working a lot in restaurants, kinda dull, turtle-like. (Laughs.) Anything youd like to share with Lake George high-schoolers? Yeah, Im very jealous, they have so much. First, the place is about three times bigger than when I was here. And theyve got way more stuff. Im very jealous. And theyve got a lot of very cool programs here. When I was here, computers had big green letters on their screens that were a half-inch high. Im very envious of them, so I hope they really appreciate and make great use of all the great stuff here.